In recent years, awareness of teen dating violence has increased markedly. Sadly, dating
violence has become a pervasive adolescent issue. Experts define dating violence as not just
physical abuse, but also emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse. Although not an exhaustive
list, dating violence behaviors can include hitting, slapping, pinching, hair-pulling, non-
consensual sexual activity, rape, controlling behaviors, stalking, tracking whereabouts, outbursts
of rage, demonstrations of jealousy, yelling, screaming, or name calling.
In the past it was common to frame dating violence as abuse largely committed by males
toward females. But recent studies indicate that this is a misunderstanding. Nearly one in five
female and male teens say they have been victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating
relationships. And when pinpointing psychological abuse, researchers have found the
percentages jump remarkably to more than sixty percent of both female and male teens.
Shockingly, the number of female and male teens admitting to being both perpetrators and
victims of psychological abuse is sixty percent!
With dating violence occurring both in person and through digital media, it is estimated that
twenty-five million teenagers in the United States are victims of abuse and some twenty-three
million teenagers are perpetrators of abuse.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO ABOUT DATING VIOLENCE
- Talk with your teen about healthy dating relationships. Be sure to have a discussion with your teen on the importance of respect in a dating relationship, so that she can recognize quickly if she is not being shown the respect she deserves.
- Get to know your teen’s date. Get to know your teen’s date by being friendly and asking appropriate questions. The more you know about who your teen is dating, the better you will be able to perceive what type of person he or she is. If your teen’s date makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t overreact, but don’t ignore your gut feelings either. Share your concerns with your teen.
- Help your teen understand that abuse doesn’t get better over time. If dating violence does not stop immediately, it will almost always progress to more extreme forms of abuse over time.
- Make your teen aware of behaviors that would be considered dating violence. Some teens may not naturally grasp the nuances of emotional and psychological abuse. Discuss these types of behaviors with your teen.